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Black Farmers Concerned Inflation Reduction Act Will Roll Back Debt Relief Promised Last Year

“What they replaced (the American Rescue Plan Act 2021) with is Section 22006 that now states that any farmer can apply to see if they are economically distressed, get their loans written down, or have them restructured,” said John Wesley Boyd, Jr., National Black Farmers Association’s founder and president. “Now, can you tell me that’s not a big difference? You took $4 billion in debt relief at 120%, put it in a fund of $3 billion, taking $1 billion away, and you opened it up to every farmer.”

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A farmer observes the care and feeding of his livestock. Photo courtesy of CBM.
A farmer observes the care and feeding of his livestock. Photo courtesy of CBM.

By Antonio Ray Harvey, California Black Media

The National Black Farmers Association is worried that the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 will roll back debt relief provided Black, indigenous, and other farmers of color in the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

When President Joe Biden signed the law, approximately 15,000 farmers of color across the country — including over 400 in California — were affected, according to the National Black Farmers Association (NBFA).

Of the 70,000 farms in California, less than 1% are Black-owned or managed, while more than 90% are white-owned or managed. In 2012, California had 722 Black farmers according to an agriculture census report released that year. By 2017, the number had decreased to 429. Nationally, 45,508 Black farmers (1.3% of all farmers) were counted in the 2017 agriculture census, making up 0.5% of the country’s farmlands.

The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan which included $4 billion to help Black and other “socially disadvantaged” farmers will be replaced with a plan that makes relief funds available to all United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) farmers suffering hardships.

“I’m very, very disappointed in this legislative action,” said John Wesley Boyd, Jr., NBFA’s founder and president, in an August 9 statement. “I’m prepared to fight for debt relief for Black, Native American, and other farmers of color all the way to the Supreme Court. I’m not going to stop fighting this.”

The NBFA is a non-profit organization representing African American farmers and their families. It serves tens of thousands of members nationwide. NBFA’s education and advocacy efforts are focused on civil rights, land retention, access to public and private loans, education and agricultural training, and rural economic development for Black and other small farmers.

The American Rescue Plan debt relief program was expected to pay off USDA loans held by 15,000 Black, Native American, Alaskan Native, Asian American, Pacific Islander, and Hispanic and Latino farmers, according to Kara Brewer-Boyd, NBFA’s Program and Event Coordinator, in a telephone interview with California Black Media on August 12.

“Socially disadvantaged Black, Native Americans, and people of color were automatically approved for 120% debt relief. They were to be paid in full,” said Brewer-Boyd. “Now they won’t get that money at all. It’s horrible. Those farmers were already identified and sent letters that their debt had been paid. These farmers are in a bad situation. Congress put them in a worse situation by telling them ‘You’re gonna get it.’ Now they are telling them ‘You’re not going to get it.’”

Objections raised by non-Black farmers to the debt relief the federal government pledged to Black farmers has put the program in limbo.

Those opponents have filed a dozen lawsuits against the American Rescue Plan Act, including one class action case. The courts are currently hearing the cases.

Under the Inflation Reduction Act, the USDA is authorized to provide $3.1 billion to distressed borrowers. Another fund has been established to supply farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners who faced discrimination before 2021 with a package of $2.2 billion.

“What they replaced (the American Rescue Plan Act 2021) with is Section 22006 that now states that any farmer can apply to see if they are economically distressed, get their loans written down, or have them restructured,” Brewer-Boyd said. “Now, can you tell me that’s not a big difference? You took $4 billion in debt relief at 120%, put it in a fund of $3 billion, taking $1 billion away, and you opened it up to every farmer.”

Brewer-Boyd said Black farmers from California were approved under the original debt relief program.

“Discrimination at USDA against Black farmers was rampant and severe. Section 1005 Loan Repayment program was a necessary step towards fixing those harms. To acknowledge and correct racism is not unconstitutional or racist,” James Wesley Boyd, Jr., stated.

Last year, Lawrence Lucus, who founded the USDA Coalition of Minority Employees, told the California Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans that racism is prevalent in agriculture, and it is the primary reason why there are just a little over 400 Black farmers in California.

“I’m sorry to say that it doesn’t look like it’s going to get any better under the times we are faced with,” Lucus said. “You have white farmers, who own most of the land and get all the benefits from the land, they are the ones now bringing court cases around the country. They are saying that it’s discriminatory to have debt-relief for Black farmers.”

Activism

Calif. Leaders Discuss Foster Care Reform Strategies for Black and Brown Youth

Before becoming a nationally recognized social justice leader and a member of California’s Mandated Reporting Taskforce, Shane Harris spent 13 years as a foster care youth after he lost both of his parents. As President of the national civil rights organization, People’s Association of Justice Advocates (PAJA), he’s aiming to solve some of the toughest challenges Black and Brown children in the foster care system face.

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Shane Harris, PAJA President and member of the California Mandated Reporting Taskforce (center) with Hafsa Kaka, Senior Advisor on Homelessness to Governor Gavin Newsom and Dr. Janet Kelly, Founder & Director of Sanctuary of Hope LA (far right) (Lila Brown CBM)
Shane Harris, PAJA President and member of the California Mandated Reporting Taskforce (center) with Hafsa Kaka, Senior Advisor on Homelessness to Governor Gavin Newsom and Dr. Janet Kelly, Founder & Director of Sanctuary of Hope LA (far right) (Lila Brown CBM)

By Lila Brown, California Black Media  

 Before becoming a nationally recognized social justice leader and a member of California’s Mandated Reporting Taskforce, Shane Harris spent 13 years as a foster care youth after he lost both of his parents. As President of the national civil rights organization, People’s Association of Justice Advocates (PAJA), he’s aiming to solve some of the toughest challenges Black and Brown children in the foster care system face.

During National Foster Care Month in May, Harris visited the Sanctuary of Hope in Los Angeles to host a roundtable meeting with current and former foster youth, many of whom, like Harris, have beat the odds and become successful professionals.

According to the federal government’s Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System, there are nearly 370,000 American children and youth in foster care.

Nationally, Black children are overrepresented in foster care. According to datacenter.kidscount.org, Black children represented 14% of the total child population in the United States. However, they represented 23% of all children in foster care. Harris pointed out that one out of every four foster youth go homeless upon exiting foster care in California. Across the state, there are nearly 65,000 children in foster care, he added. Of the 65,000 children in foster care across California, 14,000 of them are Black American.

Harris also announced a new effort already underway to push for the removal of the term “case” in L.A. County when referring to foster youth during the roundtable which featured Hafsa Kaka, Senior Advisor to Gov. Gavin Newsom and Janet Kelly, the Founder and Director of Sanctuary of Hope. The session focused on solving problems foster youth face.

Sharing personal stories, insights, and various visions for policy changes, the participants discussed numerous solutions and addressed specific concerns about ongoing challenges with the foster care system.

One top priority was how to close the foster care to homelessness pipeline for the disproportionate number of Black and Brown children in LA County’s and the state’s foster care system.

“When you see the direct connection between the disproportionate rates of Black children in foster care and the disproportionate rates of Black people in the general homeless population, there is a very clear connection there in which our foster youth are coming out of care,” stated Harris during opening remarks.

Kaka said the governor has been intentional about making sure that foster children are homeless prioritized as the state addresses homelessness.

“This is a critical moment for foster care,” said Kaka. “The systems that are working together are looking at leveraging federal, state and local funds.”

Harris said he has already begun efforts in San Diego County to drop the word “case” when referring to homeless youth.

“We are asking for a 90-day public input period, in which the county CEO and leadership can facilitate discussions with the community on replacement terminology. There’s plenty of ideas,” Harris elaborated.

Kelly said a majority of the youth who go through the Sanctuary of Hope program are young people who have experienced some form of housing instability or housing crisis.

“The goal of the work that we do is really centered around helping young people leave here with leadership skills and other forms of what we call protective factors in order for them to continue on with their stabilization journey and become loving, caring and active citizens in this world,” Kelly said.

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Activism

U.S. Rep. Kamlager-Dove Leads Discussion on Improving Black Student Learning, Test Scores

Kamlager-Dove, who represents a district that covers parts of Los Angeles County, hopes that ideas shared at the event can be incorporated into models that can impact other regions across California, where Black students continue to fall behind their peers of other races and ethnicities.

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Congresswoman Kamlager-Dove (CA-37) moderates a panel including Dr. Kortne Edogun-Ticey, Senior Advisor, U.S. Department of Education during Roundtable on Equity in Education for Los Angeles Unified School District (R to L) beside Kamlager-Dove Dr. Robert Whitman, Educational Transformation Officer, Los Angeles USD; Dr. Kortne Edogun-Ticey, Senior Advisor, U.S. Department of Education; Keith Linton, Founder, Boys to Gentlemen, Dr. Pedro Noguera, Distinguished Professor and Dean, University of Southern California Rossier School of Education and LAUSD student Jonathan McGee. Photo by Lila Brown (CBM).
Congresswoman Kamlager-Dove (CA-37) moderates a panel including Dr. Kortne Edogun-Ticey, Senior Advisor, U.S. Department of Education during Roundtable on Equity in Education for Los Angeles Unified School District (R to L) beside Kamlager-Dove Dr. Robert Whitman, Educational Transformation Officer, Los Angeles USD; Dr. Kortne Edogun-Ticey, Senior Advisor, U.S. Department of Education; Keith Linton, Founder, Boys to Gentlemen, Dr. Pedro Noguera, Distinguished Professor and Dean, University of Southern California Rossier School of Education and LAUSD student Jonathan McGee. Photo by Lila Brown (CBM).

By Lila Brown, California Black Media

On April 8, U.S. Congressmember Sydney Kamlager-Dove (D-CA-37) moderated a roundtable focused on Los Angeles Unified School District’s (LAUSD) strategies to improve Black student performance in classrooms.

Kamlager-Dove, who represents a district that covers parts of Los Angeles County, hopes that ideas shared at the event can be incorporated into models that can impact other regions across California, where Black students continue to fall behind their peers of other races and ethnicities.

Discussions at the event centered on LAUSD’s Black Student Achievement Plan (BSAP) and other educational initiatives aimed at enhancing learning and boosting test scores.

“The Black Student Achievement Plan is unique in that it takes a community-centered approach to uplifting Black students,” said Kamlager-Dove during the event held at John Muir Middle School in Los Angeles.

“We must implement culturally responsive education in the classroom to challenge our students academically while giving them a sense of purpose,” she continued.

In 2023, nearly 70% of Black children in California fell below a passing mark on the state standardized English Language Arts exam, and only about 20% of those students were performing at grade level based on their scores on the math assessment test.

A variety of public education experts joined Kamlager on the panel, including Dr. Kortne Edogun-Ticey, Senior Advisor, U.S. Department of Education; Dr. Robert Whitman, Educational Transformation Officer at LAUSD; Dr. Pedro Noguera, Professor and Dean at the University of Southern California Rossier School of Education; and Keith Linton, founder of the non-profit Boys to Gentlemen. 

Jonathan McGee, a student who sits on the BSAP Student Advisory Council, also spoke during the panel.

The BSAP was approved by the LAUSD Board of Education in February of the 2020-21 school year. Funds have been earmarked to address the longstanding disparities in educational outcomes between Black students and their non-Black peers. Dating back to the landmark case, Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka, Kan., in which the U.S. Supreme Court declared that segregated schools were unconstitutional, positive outcomes for Black students continue to lag behind district and national averages for their non-Black counterparts.

Edogun-Ticey spoke about broader investments the federal government is making in education that directly impact Black students through The White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity for Black Americans.

‘This administration did not shy away from the idea that we need resources for support which means billions of dollars in investment for HBCUs,” she explained.

BSAP strategies include partnering with Black families and local community; supporting the implementation of culturally and linguistically responsive and anti-racist practices; offering wrap-around support structures; and highlighting experiences that uplift the contributions of the Black community as motivation and models to develop positive Black student identity. Additionally, the BSAP provides increased staffing to support Black students’ academic and social-emotional needs.

“School districts across the country must push back against attacks on marginalized students by implementing programs like the BSAP, which should serve as a model for future initiatives,” Kamlager said.

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Activism

Legislature Advances, Renumbers, Sen. Bradford’s Reparation Freedmen’s Agency Bill

The bill, formerly entitled SB 490, moves on to the Committee on Governmental Organization.  SB 1403 would create a new state agency responsible for the administration and oversight of reparations as determined by the Legislature and Governor. 

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Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Inglewood) and Los Angeles-based attorney Kamilah Moore (right), the chairperson of the task force during its two-year study.
Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Inglewood) and Los Angeles-based attorney Kamilah Moore (right), the chairperson of the task force during its two-year study.

By California Black Media

On April 9, the California Senate Judiciary Committee voted 8-1 to advance Sen. Steven Bradford’s reparation legislation, Senate Bill (SB) 1403, or the “California American Freedman Affairs Agency” bill.

The bill, formerly entitled SB 490, moves on to the Committee on Governmental Organization.  SB 1403 would create a new state agency responsible for the administration and oversight of reparations as determined by the Legislature and Governor.

Creation of the agency is one of more than 115  recommendations the nine-member California reparations task force included in its final report. The bill would require the agency to determine how an individual’s status as a descendant of an enslaved person in the United States would be confirmed.

SB 1403 would require proof of an “individual’s descendant status” to be a qualifying criterion for benefits authorized by the state for descendants, as stated in the bill’s language. To reach these goals, SB 1403 would mandate the agency to be comprised of a Genealogy Office and an Office of Legal Affairs.

In 2020, California established the first-in-the-nation task force to study reparations for African Americans.

Los Angeles-based attorney Kamilah Moore, the chairperson of the task force during its two-year study, was at the State Capitol to address the members of the Judiciary Committee as an expert witness. The attorney and scholar said the bill aims to serve individuals based on lineage rather than race.

“Today, I advocate with a sense of urgency and purpose for the passage of SB 1403, a groundbreaking bill poised to establish the California American Freedmen’s Agency,” Moore told the panel. “This agency symbolizes a crucial stride towards reparative justice, particularly for those whose lineages trace back to enslaved ancestors.”

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